15 Jobs That Qualify for Student Loan Repayment & Forgiveness Programs

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Student loan debt can be overwhelming. Yet it’s become an unavoidable reality for many college graduates. According to a 2018 report from the Institute for College Access & Success, two-thirds of students borrow money for college. 

The average amount borrowed, according to 2019 statistics from Nitro College, is more than $37,000. And many professions require taking on graduate school debt that tops six figures.

That’s a huge burden on new graduates just starting out in their careers. Fortunately, there are a variety of programs to help with repayment, including forgiveness, cancellation, and loan repayment programs (LRPs) specific to your chosen career. 

Career-specific programs can help reduce or even eliminate student debt in exchange for your years of service and expertise.

There are over 100 federal and state-based programs that offer student loan forgiveness, cancellation, or repayment assistance related to your profession. But while millions of borrowers could qualify for these programs, only a small fraction take advantage of them. 

For example, about 35 million Americans are employed in the public sector and could have their student loans forgiven through the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Yet less than one million have applied as of a 2017 estimate from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

That could be because many graduates aren’t even aware these LRPs and forgiveness programs exist. So, to help you get started on paying off your student loans as quickly as possible, we’ve put together a list of programs available for certain career fields. 

If you decide to apply for any of them, make sure you understand all the eligibility factors and program requirements.

Careers That Offer Student Loan Repayment or Forgiveness

Both the federal government and private organizations offer job-specific forgiveness and repayment programs. 

Generally, federal programs are available to professionals working in public-sector or high-need areas. These jobs often aren’t the best-paying or most desirable, so these programs are an incentive to attract highly qualified workers to jobs that might otherwise go unfilled. Hopefully, what you sacrifice in income will be made up by debt repayment or forgiveness.

Here’s a list of career paths that offer student loan forgiveness or repayment.

1. Public Service Employee

Nurses Doctors Coordinate Hands Team Hospital

Anyone who works in a qualifying organization, such as a government agency or nonprofit, can get loan forgiveness through the PSLF program. It was designed to encourage people to work in the public sector and covers the most careers of all job-specific forgiveness and repayment programs.

PSLF is available to any worker in a government organization — federal, state, or local — as well as nonprofit organizations. Just a few of the job types that could qualify include public teaching, military service, social work, public safety, law enforcement, public health services, public library services, and public interest law.

To qualify for PSLF, you must make a total of 120 payments while working for a qualifying nonprofit or government agency. These payments don’t need to be consecutive, but it does mean you need to work in a qualifying job for an overall total of 10 years. 

After making the required number of payments, any remaining loan balance will be forgiven. Unlike regular forgiveness with income-driven repayment, you won’t have to pay taxes on the remaining balance.


2. Federal Agency Employee

Federal Agent Nyc Secret Service

In addition to PSLF, federal employees also have access to a lesser-known LRP: the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program. To attract and retain highly qualified employees, federal agencies are allowed to offer job candidates this special job perk. 

In exchange for a commitment to work at the agency for a minimum of three years, federal agencies can pay up to $10,000 per year toward a new hire’s federal student loans. The total assistance given cannot exceed $60,000.

Depending on how much you owe, this program has a slight advantage over PSLF. If you owe $60,000 or less, you could have your entire balance wiped clean without making any payments toward your loans or needing to wait 10 years for forgiveness of the balance. 

You also won’t have to stay at the job for 10 years. Instead, you could have your balance paid off in as few as three years or as many as six.

However, the program isn’t without its caveats. For one, if you leave your job before your three years are up or are fired for misconduct or poor performance, you’ll have to pay back any money the agency paid toward your loans. 

And regardless of whether you complete the term or not, you’ll have to pay income tax on the amount paid toward your loans. 

Additionally, not all government jobs offer this perk or the same repayment amounts. 

Only federal loans are eligible for the program, but all types of federal loans are covered, including FFEL Loans, Direct Loans, and PLUS Loans.

If you’re a parent who borrowed a Parent PLUS loan to help cover college tuition for your child, you can qualify for this program. Very few options are available to help Parent PLUS borrowers manage payments. 

And, unlike with some forgiveness and repayment programs, you don’t need to have finished your degree to qualify.

However, many agencies require a degree and sometimes specific degrees. They all tailor their plans to recruit highly qualified candidates to hard-to-fill positions.

There’s no formal application for this program. Instead, you’ll need to ask your potential or current employer if student loan repayment is a benefit offered through that federal agency. 

If you ask, your employer will at least consider your request. But whether it’s given to you is decided on a case-by-case basis.

More than 35 federal agencies offer this perk, including all 15 cabinet-level departments and over 20 independent agencies. If you’re interviewing for or a federal agency that doesn’t, ask them if they’ll consider providing this benefit if you accept the position. All federal agencies are eligible to offer it.


3. Teacher

Portrait Teacher In Classroom With Students

Teaching generally requires an extensive amount of higher education. That could range from a bachelor’s degree to a Ph.D., depending on the position. Yet even those who teach at the college level often aren’t paid enough to account for the high cost of their education. 

As a college-level English teacher, I know this struggle firsthand. I borrowed well into the six figures to finance my Ph.D. (a requirement for teaching college), yet my starting teaching income was a meager $25,000.

Average teacher salaries are just over $30,000 for preschool teachers, $60,000 for elementary and middle school teachers, $62,000 for high school teachers, and $80,000 for postsecondary teachers. 

It’s easy to borrow more than the average annual teacher salary for only a bachelor’s degree, but many teachers are required to get masters and doctorate degrees. Fortunately, there are a few programs that can help them repay their loans.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Most teachers — as long as they work full-time for a public or nonprofit school or college — qualify for PSLF. The program is a major boon for teachers who struggle with low pay while attempting to pay off high student loan debt.

Although the program hasn’t functioned optimally in the past, in October 2021, the Department of Education announced a huge and ongoing overhaul of PSLF that should make the program easier for borrowers to get forgiveness now and in the future.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

If you teach in a low-income school district or work in a teacher shortage area, you qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. You could receive anywhere from $5,000 to $17,500 depending on the subject you teach and your years of service. Only math, science, and special education teachers are eligible to receive the higher amount of $17,500.

To qualify, you must work full-time for at least five consecutive academic years at a school that serves low-income students. To find out if your school qualifies, search the directory at Federal Student Aid.

You must also be a “highly qualified teacher.” That includes having a bachelor’s degree and state certification as a teacher and passing state tests that prove subject matter knowledge.

Only federal Direct and FFEL loans qualify. You cannot have Federal Perkins or Federal PLUS loans — either Parent PLUS or Graduate PLUS — forgiven under this program.

It’s possible to qualify for both Teacher Loan Forgiveness and PSLF, but any years of service that count toward Teacher Loan Forgiveness can’t be counted toward PSLF. So you need to crunch the numbers to see which is of greater benefit to your situation. 

Also, if you’re an AmeriCorp volunteer (see No. 14 below) any period of time you spend working toward their repayment benefit isn’t counted toward the years required for Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

Perkins Loan Cancellation

Although your Federal Perkins Loans aren’t eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness, they may be eligible for cancellation under the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation Program. To qualify, you must teach at a low-income school, in a subject area deemed by your state to have a shortage, or as a special education teacher.

Perkins Loans cancellation is gradual. For your first and second years of teaching, you get a cancellation of 15% of your loan for each year of teaching, including any accrued interest. For the third and fourth years, it’s 20% for each year. And for the fifth year, it’s 30%. That adds up to a total of 100% cancellation if you continue teaching at a qualified school for five years.

Note that the Federal Perkins Loans program ended in 2017. It’s no longer possible to get this loan, but if you already have Perkins loans and you’re a teacher, this is one way to unload them.

State and City-Based Programs

Additionally, there are state and city-specific loan forgiveness programs available to teachers. To discover what’s available in your area, search the AFT directory.


4. Doctor/Physician

Doctor Smiling Arms Crossed Office

Although most doctors can expect to make well into the six figures, paying for the education to get there can take a significant chunk out of even a large paycheck. 

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the median medical school debt for 2016 graduates was $190,000. On a standard 10-year repayment plan, that’s a monthly student loan bill of over $2,200. 

Fortunately, doctors in need of debt relief have options, including PSLF for those who work in public health.

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Programs

For those interested in working in shortage areas, the NHSC offers a number of LRPs for health care professionals.

  • NHSC Loan Repayment Program. The NHSC offers student loan repayment assistance of up to $50,000 to physicians and other health care professionals through their Loan Repayment Program. In exchange, doctors must work full-time in an NHSC-approved shortage area for two years. The payments are tax-free and disburse immediately on starting work. Even better, after the initial two-year service agreement, participants can renew their contracts annually to receive continued repayment assistance. The length and amount of assistance depend on the area of service. Higher-need areas qualify for larger loan repayments.
  • NHSC Rural Community Loan Repayment Program. In exchange for providing substance use or opioid treatment, health care providers can receive up to $100,000 in student loan repayment assistance through the NHSC Rural Community LRP. Participants must work at a rural NHSC-approved substance use disorder treatment facility for three years. Priority is given to sites that have received Rural Communities Opioid Response Program funding.
  • NHSC Students to Service Program. For medical students completing their last year of school, the NHSC offers a Students to Service Program. In exchange for a commitment to provide primary health care at an NHSC-approved site for three years after graduation, the NHSC provides up to $120,000 toward both educational costs and student loans.
  • NHSC Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program. In exchange for working three years in substance use disorder treatment at an NHSC-approved site, the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program pays up to $75,000 toward student loans. You get priority if you have a DATA 2000 waiver, serve in an opioid treatment program, or have a license or certification in substance use disorder interventions.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers repayment assistance of $50,000 annually to health care professionals in exchange for performing medical research funded by a U.S. nonprofit. 

Like other repayment assistance programs, the NIH LRP was created to attract top talent to an underserved field — in this case, biomedical or behavioral research.

Through eight different programs, health researchers receive repayment assistance while either employed with the NIH or eligible organizations outside the NIH. The programs are organized around broad research areas but aren’t intended to fund individual research projects. Rather, the intention is to support applicants in building a career in medical research.

Indian Health Services (IHS) Loan Repayment Program

The Indian Health Service (IHS) is a federal program for American Indians and Alaska Natives. In exchange for a two-year commitment to work in a health facility serving indigenous Americans, the IHS Loan Repayment Program repays up to $40,000 in student loans for health care professionals. 

After the initial two years, participants can renew their contracts annually to receive additional benefits until their full debt is repaid.

Military Student Loan Repayment Assistance

The military offers a number of scholarships and repayment assistance programs to health care professionals. Although there may be some differences in maximum payout amounts, whether you join the Army, Navy, or the Force, all three branches of the military offer similar scholarship and repayment programs for health care professionals.

  • The Health Professions Scholarship Program. Qualified medical, dental, nursing, and veterinary students can have their full tuition and expenses paid by a branch of the military, plus receive a monthly stipend of $2,200 or more. Students are also eligible for a $20,000 sign-on bonus. Students “repay” the scholarship by serving in the military for one year per year of scholarship.
  • Financial Assistance Program. This LRP grants up to $45,000 per year in repayment assistance, as well as a monthly stipend of $2,000 or moreq to military members enrolled in an accredited residency. Once you complete your residency, you must complete a year of service for each year you received assistance, plus one additional year.
  • Health Professions Loan Repayment Program. Qualified participants receive up to $40,000 per year paid directly toward their student loans, minus federal income taxes.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)

In addition to branches of the military, the VA, which provides medical care to veterans among other services, provides repayment assistance programs.

  • Education Debt Reduction Program. Through the VA’s Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP), doctors and other health care professionals who work for the VA receive up to $200,000 in repayment assistance. Payments are made over a five-year period, up to a maximum of $40,000 per year. The VA uses the EDRP program as a recruitment incentive to fill positions in difficult-to-recruit specialties.
  • Student Loan Repayment Program. The VA is one of the government agencies qualified to offer repayment assistance as a recruitment bonus. As federal agency employees, VA doctors are eligible for up to $10,000 per year in repayment assistance, up to a maximum of $60,000 through the VA’s Student Loan Repayment Program.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Faculty Loan Repayment Program

For health professionals who serve at least two years as a faculty member at a health professions school, HRSA’s Faculty Loan Repayment Program offers up to $40,000 in student loan repayment assistance. To qualify, you must come from a disadvantaged background.

State-Based Programs

A number of states offer LRPs for physicians. Many of these are through the NHSC’s State Loan Repayment Program. These programs provide incentives for doctors to practice in shortage areas.

Additionally, some states have their own loan repayment assistance plans (LRAPs) for doctors. Similar to the NHSC programs, these typically offer student loan repayment or other special pay incentives for doctors who commit to working in high-need areas. 

For a list of state programs, visit the database maintained by the AAMC.


5. Nurse

Group Of Nurses At Hospital

A nurse’s income can approach or even exceed six figures, depending on the type of nursing. The highest-paying jobs require graduate degrees. 

And according to a 2017 report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, more than two-thirds of nursing students borrow anywhere from $40,000 to $150,000 to get these degrees. That’s a serious bite out of even a six-figure paycheck.

Many of the programs for doctors and physicians are also available to those in nursing. 

These include:

  • PSLF (if you work in public health)
  • The NHSC programs, except for Students to Service
  • The NIH LRP
  • The IHS LRP
  • Military scholarships and LRPs
  • VA LRPs
  • The HRSA Faculty LRP

Additionally, there are a couple of other nurse-specific programs to help nurses pay off their debt as quickly as possible.

Nurse Corp Loan Repayment Program

The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program repays up to 85% of the student debt acquired to get a nursing degree. In exchange for a two-year commitment to work in a nursing shortage area or as nursing faculty at an eligible school, participants can have 60% of their debt repaid. 

At the end of the initial two years, they can apply for a third year and receive another 25% of debt repayment assistance. 

Note that this assistance is not tax-exempt, so any assistance you receive is reduced by the amount of income tax you’ll need to pay.

Perkins Loan Cancellation

If you’re a nurse and have any Federal Perkins Loans, you can get up to 100% of them canceled. To qualify, you must be a registered nurse and work full-time. 

You also have to apply to the program, either through the school you borrowed from or your student loan servicer; enrollment isn’t automatic. 

As long as you qualify, your Perkins Loans are gradually discharged over a period of five years.

State-Based Programs

Most states offer loan forgiveness and repayment programs for nurses in exchange for working in a shortage area. You must be licensed to practice in a state to qualify for its loan repayment programs. 

There’s no centralized database specifically for nursing, so search your state to see if any programs are offered in your area. 

The database maintained by the AAMC is a good place to start.


6. Dentist

Boy Getting His Teeth Cleaned Dentist Chair Office

Believe it or not, dentists often find themselves in far worse student debt than physicians. According to the American Student Dental Association, the average debt load for 2018 dental graduates was a monumental $285,184. 

Like physicians, dentists can make well into the six figures, but it’s not nearly enough to make repaying loans of that size easy.

As with other professions, PSLF is an option if you work for a nonprofit or public service agency. Additionally, many of the same programs available to physicians are also available to dentists. 

These include:

  • Military scholarships and LRPs
  • VA LRPs
  • The IHS LRP
  • All of the NHSC programs, including Students to Service
  • The HRSA Faculty LRP

State-Based Programs

Many states have their own programs designed to encourage dentists to work in high-need areas. 

For a full list of state-specific student loan repayment assistance for dentists, visit the database maintained by the American Dental Education Association.


7. Pharmacist

Pharmacist Giving Medicine To Customer Pharmacy

As with many other health care professions, pharmacists have the potential to earn six-figure salaries. But getting there often requires taking on six-figure debt. 

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, 2018 pharmacy graduates borrowed an average of $166,528 to get their degrees. 

Fortunately, assistance is available for pharmacists.

Anyone who works full-time for a public agency or nonprofit qualifies for PSLF, including pharmacists. Pharmacists also have access to some of the same programs as other health professionals. 

These include:

  • Military scholarships and LRPs
  • VA LRPs
  • The IHS LRP
  • The NHSC programs, except for Students to Service

State-Based Programs

Many states have programs to repay a portion or all of a pharmacist’s student loans if they work in a shortage area for a certain period of time. 

Although there’s no database maintained specifically for pharmacists, a search of the database at the AAMC is a good place to start.


8. Physical Therapist

Physical Therapist Rehabilitation Physiotherapy

A career as a physical therapist requires a doctoral degree (a DPT). Physical therapists can earn, on average, $88,000 per year, yet the amount of money required to finance a doctorate degree often far exceeds this amount. 

According to a 2017 survey conducted by The American Physical Therapy Association, the average DPT graduate borrows $96,000 to finance their education.

Some of the same programs available to other health care professionals are also available to physical therapists. 

These include:

  • PSLF
  • VA LRPs
  • The IHS LRP
  • The HRSA Faculty LRP
  • The NIH LRP

Additionally, many hospitals and private health care facilities use loan forgiveness as a recruitment incentive for physical therapists. 

To find out where these are available, ask during your hiring interview or contact the American Physical Therapy Association.


9. Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Therapist, or Social Worker

Child Psychologist Emotion Emoticons

The vast majority (91%) of psychologists with doctor of psychology degrees (Psy.D.) graduate with student loan debt in excess of $200,000, and 77% of those with doctor of philosophy degrees (Ph.D.) borrow more than $75,000, according to a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association.

Debt-relief programs available to psychologists and other mental health workers include:

  • PSLF
  • The NIH LRP
  • The IHS LRP
  • The HRSA Faculty LRP

The NHSC Programs, except Students to Service, are open to those with a variety of different psychology and social work degrees. And Health Professionals Loan Repayment is available for military clinical psychologists.

State-Based Programs

Many states offer repayment assistance to those who work in mental and behavioral health, as long as they’re willing to work in underserved areas. 

Although no database exists specifically for state-based mental health repayment programs, start with an online search to see if your state offers anything for graduates with your degree.


10. Veterinarian

Veterinarian Cat Stethoscope Doctor Vet Clinic

Getting a degree in veterinary medicine can cost nearly as much as one in human medicine. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 2016 veterinary medicine graduates borrowed an average of $143,758 to finance their education. 

But while the average vet salary comes close to six figures, they aren’t paid nearly as well as the average physician. Fortunately, there are a variety of LRPs and forgiveness programs for veterinarians.

Even though vets work on animals and not humans, they are still health professionals. Thus, a few of the same programs available to other health care workers are available to them. 

These include:

  • PSLF
  • Military scholarships and LRPs
  • The HRSA Faculty LRP

Additionally, there are a few vet-specific assistance programs.

USDA Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a repayment assistance program for veterinarians. 

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program pays up to $75,000 toward your student loans, dispersed in amounts of $25,000 per year over the course of your service. In exchange, you must work as a vet for three years in a region designated by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as a shortage area. 

One of the great benefits of this program is that, unlike many other LRPs, you can use this money toward private as well as federal student loan debt.

Not everyone with veterinary debt is accepted into this program. NIFA only grants awards to a limited number of applicants. Also, the primary focus of the program is on veterinary medicine for livestock raised for food.

State-Based Programs

Many states offer repayment assistance to veterinarians who are willing to work in underserved areas. 

Although no database exists specifically for state-based veterinary medicine repayment programs, it’s worth it to do an online search to see if your state offers anything for veterinary graduates.


11. Lawyer

African American Woman Lawyer In Front Of Supreme Court

As many law graduates are aware, no one ever expects law school to be cheap. In fact, according to 2021 statistics from Nitro College, law school debt, at an average of $140,616, rivals that of medical school. 

Worse, the average salary of an attorney is about half that of an M.D., which makes paying it off that much harder.

Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of student debt repayment assistance and forgiveness programs for lawyers, including PSLF for those who work in public law or for a nonprofit.

School-Based Programs

Dozens of law schools, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and NYU, offer loan repayment assistance programs. 

Programs generally require you to have full-time employment at a public service law firm and have an adjusted gross income of less than $60,000, although programs vary from school to school.

The amount of student debt law schools repay varies widely. 

For example, the University of Notre Dame Law School repays up to $15,000 annually for 10 years to lawyers working in public law who make less than $70,000. 

The University of Virginia covers 100% of student debt for lawyers who make less than $65,000 per year, and a portion of the debt for those who earn between $65,000 and $85,000. 

Although you need to speak with your school directly for the most up-to-date information, Equal Justice Works has a comprehensive booklet on repaying law school loans that includes a list of schools offering repayment assistance.

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program

As a participant in the federal employee LRP, every spring, the DOJ opens its Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program to attract top talent. 

As with other federal agency employees, in exchange for a three-year commitment, lawyers at the DOJ can receive up to $60,000 in repayment assistance, paid in $10,000 annual increments.

John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

The John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program provides repayment assistance to qualifying public defenders and prosecutors who agree to work in public law for a minimum of three years. 

Amounts vary depending on where you live. Assistance is payable in increments of up to $10,000 per year and cannot exceed a maximum of $60,000.

Applicants to this program must apply through their state and follow the procedures of their state-designated agency.

Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program

The Herbert S. Garten LRP repays law school loans up to $5,600 per year for three years. 

Attorneys must work at a qualifying organization for the full three years, and not everyone is selected. 

The agency uses a lottery system to choose 70 attorneys for the program each year.

Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps

For those interested in joining the JAG Corps, the Air Force pays up to $65,000 toward student loans. 

The payments are made directly to the lender over the course of a three-year period starting after the first year of enlistment. A JAG attorney must remain enlisted for four years to receive the full benefit.

If you remain with JAG after the initial four-year period, you also become eligible to receive up to $60,000 in cash bonuses, depending on the number of years of service. 

Although this money can be used any way you want, you could certainly apply it to any remaining student loan balance.

State-Based Programs

Many state and local repayment assistance programs are available for attorneys. To see if one exists in your area, do an Internet search. 

The American Bar Association maintains a list of state programs, but you must be a member to access this information.


12. Active-Duty Military

Military Mother Soldier With Daughter Hugging Balloons

Not only does the military offer repayment assistance for lawyers and health care professionals, but it also offers assistance to many other types of enlisted soldiers.

The College Loan Repayment Program

The College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) is offered as an enlistment incentive for new military recruits. The program is for enlisted personnel only and is not available to officers. Additionally, not every military occupational specialty (MOS) is eligible. 

The list of eligible MOS’s changes quarterly, but all recruiting officers have it. Although there are basic similarities, each branch is authorized by Congress to administer the program as it sees fit to meet its recruitment goals. So there are differences among each branch.

Generally, the military annually repays one-third of eligible student loan debt or $1,500 (whichever is greater) in return for a three-year service commitment. Payments begin at the end of the first year of service. 

Congress has set the total maximum allowable amount of repayment to $65,000, minus taxes. But each branch of the military applies their own maximums. Below is specific information on what each offers.

  • Army. The Army College Loan Repayment Program repays the maximum. To qualify, you need a score of 50 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and must serve in an eligible MOS.
  • Army Reserves. The Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program pays up to $50,000 of a soldier’s student loans, paid annually as 15% of your outstanding debt or $1,500 (whichever is greater). To qualify, you need a score of 50 or higher on the ASVAB, must serve in an eligible MOS, and must enlist for a minimum of six years.
  • Army National Guard. The National Guard College Loan Repayment Program pays up to $50,000 of a servicemember’s student loans. To qualify, you need a score of 50 or higher on the ASVAB, must serve in an eligible MOS, and must enlist for a minimum of six years. In return, the National Guard will annually pay 15% of your outstanding student loan debt or $1,500 (whichever is greater) for each year of service.
  • Navy. The Navy College Loan Repayment Program pays the highest amount — up to $65,000 toward your student loan debt. One-third of your student loan debt or $1,500 (whichever is greater) is paid annually for each year of service. If your balance ever drops below one-third of your initial debt, the Navy will pay it off completely. To qualify, you must have a minimum score of 50 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) and enlist in an LRP-qualifying position.
  • Air Force. Unfortunately, the Air Force no longer has a CLRP for new enlistees. The only repayment benefit it currently offers is for JAG. However, they do offer tuition assistance for any enlisted member interested in furthering their education.

0% Interest Rate

In addition to the above repayment options, enlisting in the military comes with some other student loan-related benefits. For one, if you’re on active duty serving in an area of hostility and receive special pay, you can get 0% interest on your federal student loans for up to a maximum of 60 months. This interest rate can be applied retroactively.

You also can defer making payments on your federal student loans while on active duty. Some private lenders also offer this benefit.

Additionally, for qualifying federal loans, no interest will accrue during the deferment. While it’s not exactly repayment assistance, it will help you keep your costs down temporarily, hopefully making it easier to pay off your loan more quickly down the road.

Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

If you were permanently disabled while serving in the military, all of your student loans can be canceled through the Department of Education’s total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge program. 

To qualify, you’ll need to provide a letter from the VA stating either that you have a service-connected disability that’s 100% disabling or that you’re totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

And, of course, as government employees, all military service personnel qualify for PSLF.


13. Automotive Workers

Automotive Factory Worker Painting Car Assembly Line

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) offers loan repayment assistance through its SEMA Loan Forgiveness Program. 

Any employee of a member company can apply annually for an award of up to $5,000. Awards can be used to repay loans already acquired or as scholarships for further schooling.

To qualify, you must have earned a degree or certificate from a U.S. college, university, or technical school, graduated with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, and you must complete an application demonstrating your passion for the automotive industry.


14. Volunteer

Peace Corps Website Magnifying Glass

While not exactly a career, volunteering opportunities can help with your student loans. In exchange for your service, certain volunteer organizations grant repayment assistance. In most cases, as long as you work full-time, your efforts count toward PSLF.

Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA)

Sponsored by AmeriCorps, VISTA is a program created to fight poverty in the United States by placing volunteers in nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and faith-based groups. 

Examples of VISTA projects include organizing shelter and job opportunities for victims of disasters and creating an adult literacy awareness campaign.

Programs include a living allowance, but the biggest perk of fulfilling a one-year term of service is the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. You can use this to pay educational costs at eligible post-secondary institutions or to repay qualified student loans. 

The amount of the award is equal to the maximum amount of the Pell Grant for the fiscal year in which your term of national service is approved. Thus, the amount of the award changes from year to year. It also varies by amount of service (whether you work full-time or part-time). 

For example, for the fiscal year Oct. 1, 2021 — Sept. 30, 2022, the award for one year of full-time service is $6,495.

The Peace Corps

If you prefer to travel abroad for your volunteer service, the Peace Corps is another great option. It sends Americans all over the world to help with people’s most pressing needs. 

Projects include everything from teaching digital literacy to boosting entrepreneurship. I have a friend who served her term in Jamaica teaching environmental sustainability.

In exchange for your service, volunteers can defer their federal student loans, have their service count toward PSLF, or receive partial cancellation of their Perkins Loans.

Additionally, at the end of the program, volunteers are given a $10,000 stipend to help them adjust to life back home. The money can be used however you want, including as payment toward your loans.

And while it’s not repayment assistance, through the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows program, returning Peace Corps volunteers can receive tuition assistance toward graduate school studies.

Teach for America

The Teach for America program is designed to recruit and develop strong teachers who are passionate about educational equality and excellence. Teachers serve in inner-city or rural areas with economically disadvantaged populations. 

You don’t need to have a teaching degree; any undergraduate degree from an accredited college is sufficient. You also must have graduated with a minimum 2.5 GPA and be a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient.

Teach for America participants receive a salary, typically between $33,000 and $58,000, and benefits. In addition, their work counts toward PSLF.


15. Other Careers

Stem Jobs Science Tech Engineering Math

Most states offer repayment assistance for a variety of careers. While the most common are for doctors, nurses, teachers, and lawyers, many states offer assistance for additional occupations. 

For example, the Alfond Leaders Program in Maine offers repayment assistance to those in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers.

It’s worth checking out your state’s programs to see if there’s one that could apply to your situation. To find them, search for your state’s name plus your profession plus “student loan repayment assistance.”


Should You Choose a Job for the Forgiveness Benefit?

Despite the possibilities, you may want to think twice about taking on a certain profession only for the forgiveness benefits. Many of these programs come with tradeoffs. 

While you could potentially have thousands — or even tens of thousands — of dollars in student debt repaid on your behalf, you’ll likely have to work in a rural or disadvantaged area where your salary is significantly less than it would be elsewhere. You have to decide if the repayment benefit or the higher salary would net you more in the long run.

If you’re still in school, you should know that programs change all the time before you take on a lot of debt in anticipation of getting a program to help you pay it. For example, the Air Force used to have a CLRP, but it was discontinued in 2019. 

Additionally, if state or federal budgets are tight, funding for a program could easily end. For example, Maine’s Alfond’s Leaders Program is currently under review and may not continue.

Many of these programs have strict legal obligations, including contracts and a minimum employment term. They can also be difficult to qualify for due to strict eligibility requirements. Most apply only to federal loans and not private student loan debt. And some repayment assistance is tax-exempt, while other assistance is considered income and taxed accordingly.

Finally, some programs can be combined, while others are mutually exclusive. 

For example, if you participate in the military CLRP program, your years of service while your loans are being repaid don’t count toward the G.I. Bill, which pays for a certain amount of continuing education depending on your length of service.

However, if you’re already working in one of these professions and have graduated with a significant amount of student debt, it can definitely be worth your time to at least research if any of these programs can benefit your situation — especially if you’re already working in an underserved area.


Final Word

Depending on your situation, student loan forgiveness or repayment assistance may or may not be for you. But, if it is, giving just two or three years of your professional life to a program you qualify for can make a life-changing difference in your student debt burden.

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Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Public Defender or Private Attorney: Which Should You Use?

“Mr. Beaver, should we hire a private attorney or insist that our son, ‘Tom,’ just ask for a public defender for his possession of a controlled substance charge? He was arrested with several other young men in a car that had illegal drugs in the passenger compartment. 

“We own an automotive and commercial truck parts delivery service.  Tom is 25, works as one of our drivers, and it is my hope that he will take over the business.

“My wife says that he needs to deal with this on his own, and as he can’t afford a private attorney, to ask for a public defender, but he yelled, ‘Public defenders are second-rate lawyers!’

“We succeeded in enabling him to have an entitled attitude, and this scares us. I know that you began your law career as a deputy district attorney, so, what’s your recommendation? Does it really make a difference if he uses a PD? Thanks, Terry.”

Bite the Bullet! The Consequences of a Drug Charge are Real

I ran this often-asked question by Denver-based criminal defense attorney Peter Lloyd Weber. His law practice concentrates on drug transportation and distribution.

“Where a family is facing the dilemma between teaching their kid a lesson and saving money — or biting the bullet and hiring a private attorney — there is really no choice as the collateral consequences of a drug conviction are so great,” he says.

“It can result in his being unable to obtain certain kinds of employment, licenses, may impact his credit rating, make it impossible to join the military, dramatically increase auto and homeowners insurance rates — in short, nothing good comes from a drug conviction.

“Especially where Tom’s parents expect him to take over their delivery business, a drug record is the last thing in the world they should risk.”

A Parade of Defendants Pleading Guilty

I recall as a deputy D.A. the parade of defendants represented by the Public Defender’s office or appointed counsel who, in my opinion based on what I saw, were induced to take plea deals on potentially defensible cases. And it wasn’t because these lawyers were lazy or incompetent.

Rather, it had to do with the economics of time. In fact, many articles have been written — –going back years — sympathetic to what faces these dedicated attorneys who want to help their clients. 

But when you are given a huge caseload and lack adequate time and resources, justice suffers.

Weber agrees.

“This does not mean that public defenders are bad lawyers, far from it,” he says, “But you’ve got to look at the reality of having a PD or appointed counsel as your defense attorney. It often comes down to getting what you pay for.

“Public defenders are government employees and generally, across the country, are significantly underpaid. In fact, some are so badly paid they would qualify for a PD!

“So, it is a perfect storm of the millions of people who can’t afford to hire an attorney for their criminal defense, given a PDs or equally low-paid appointed counsel — all of them juggling massive caseloads.

“Often these lawyers meet with their clients a few minutes before entering a plea. The results are negotiated pleas in almost all of their cases, due primarily to their huge caseload.

“It is common for PDs to plead their clients to years in jail with little more than a brief conversation beforehand. They simply do not have the time, energy and attention necessary to formulate a legal defense that could have prevented or minimized the impact of a conviction,” He maintains.

Advantages of Privately Retained Counsel

There are many advantages in hiring your own lawyer, and a main one is that clients can expect adequate time to be devoted to the case in addition to support staff, including private investigators — typically retired from law enforcement — and technical experts who are able to challenge evidence against their client.  These all cost money, but as Weber observes, “They level the playing field.”

On the nightly news, we see body cam police video. He asks, “Do you think that public defenders or appointed counsel have the time to watch what could be hours of video? Often they do not. A privately retained lawyer will take the time to examine all avenues that help the client.”

Flat Rate or Hourly?

“Stories of defense attorneys being paid thousands of dollars upfront and then just walking their client through a guilty plea are common and are so unfair,” he underscores.

“Don’t let fear interfere with your common sense about the cost of hiring a lawyer. We can only charge reasonable rates, and with that in mind, I recommend that clients strongly consider paying by the hour — on a time-based approach — instead of one large flat fee.”

And what does he like most about his job?

“What I do is more than a job; it is a calling. People phone me every day asking for help. I never charge for phone consultations. When someone contacts a criminal defense attorney, this could be one of the worst times in their lives, and they should be able to talk with a lawyer without worrying if they can pay for that time on the phone.”         

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield, Calif., and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to  (661) 323-7993 or e-mailed to [email protected] And be sure to visit www.dennisbeaver.com.

Attorney at Law, Author of “You and the Law”

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “You and the Law.” Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. “I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift.” 

Source: kiplinger.com

The Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania in 2022

  • Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State for its role in U.S. history
  • The state’s roots are deep in manufacturing, including industries such as coal and steel
  • Living in Pennsylvania gives you access to all the riches of the state, no matter what city you call home

Pennsylvania holds a notable place in the history of this country. Not only did it help shape our formation into the United States, but its roots are deep in the coal, steel and railroad industries. Living in the Keystone State puts you among historic locations that paved the way for the development of so much of this country.

It’s a lofty reputation to hold up, but staying grounded in industry and opportunity has enabled the state to maintain itself as an attractive spot for those looking for employment. With affordable housing across the state, plenty of colleges and universities and a slew of historic landmarks, why wouldn’t you want to call this northern state home?

For all these reasons, the best places to live in Pennsylvania stretch from one side of the state to other. Some cities are easily recognizable, while others you may hear about for the very first time. Regardless, you’ve got plenty of choices when it comes to finding the perfect home in Pennsylvania.

Allentown, PA

Allentown, PA

  • Population: 125,845
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,885
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,027
  • Median home price: $187.750
  • Median household income: $41,167
  • Walk score: 59/100

A rich Dutch history gives Allentown a unique look and feel. Situated on the Lehigh River, this busy city is full of beautiful parks and gardens. It offers up a diverse collection of inhabitants with plenty to do to accommodate any lifestyle. There are plenty of job opportunities and thriving districts for the arts, theater and culture.

A day out and about in Allentown isn’t complete without a walk through the Allentown Art Museum, The Liberty Bell Museum, America On Wheels Museum and more. If the season is right, grab tickets to see the infamous Lehigh Valley IronPigs AAA baseball team go a few innings as well.

Bethel Park, PA

Bethel Park, PA

  • Population: 33,577
  • 1-BR median rent: $975
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,099
  • Median home price: $240,000
  • Median household income: $79,894
  • Walk score: 46/100

A Pittsburgh suburb, Bethel Park combines affordable housing with excellent schools and an abundance of green space. The city’s population is a combination of retirees and young professionals, but it’s also a great place for families. In addition to the parks, you’ll find plenty of bars, coffee shops and retail outlets.

With less than 30 minutes between Pittsburgh and Bethel Park, the town draws in those still commuting in for work, but who are looking for a quieter place to end each day. On weekends, locals will stay put and enjoy everything from the Montour Trail to the Hundred Acres Manor.

Camp Hill, PA

Camp Hill, PA

Source: ApartmentGuide.com/Society Hill
  • Population: 8,130
  • 1-BR median rent: $890
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,422
  • Median home price: $225,900
  • Median household income: $87,008
  • Walk score: 34/100

One of the best places to live in Pennsylvania is a small city along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Camp Hill gives you a nice amount of waterfront to explore. The town is also home to the northernmost engagement of the Gettysburg campaign during the Civil War. To honor this piece of history, you can follow the West Shore. There you’ll find historic buildings and battle sites.

For outdoor lovers, Camp Hill is a perfect home base to access hiking, biking, skiing and water activities. There are also plenty of local parks for a simple stroll.

Collegeville, PA

Collegeville, PA

  • Population: 5,043
  • 1-BR median rent: $2,060
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,655
  • Median home price: $380,000
  • Median household income: $112,500
  • Walk score: 44/100

As a suburb of Philadelphia, Collegeville got its straightforward name from Ursinus College. Academic life still plays an important role here, although the city is also a popular destination for a variety of businesses.

While there’s plenty of shopping and plenty for college students, the area’s top feature is the Perkiomen Trail. This 20-mile path follows the river, connecting many parks and historical sites. You can walk, bike and even ride horseback along the path.

Harrisburg, PA

Harrisburg, PA

  • Population: 50,099
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,137
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,407
  • Median home price: $199,025
  • Median household income: $39,685
  • Walk score: 55/100

As the state capital, Harrisburg is one of the best places to live in Pennsylvania as much for its location within the state as for its history. Living here puts you near the Susquehanna River, Appalachian Trail and the cities of Hershey and Gettysburg. You can easily sample a little nature and history with so much close by.

Within Harrisburg itself, you have access to the city’s own island. Here you’ll find a beach, riverboat, arcade and more. It’s a great stop during the day. When the sun goes down, keep yourself occupied with the upscale bars and restaurants downtown.

Hershey, PA

Hershey, PA

  • Population: 13,858
  • 1-BR median rent: $915
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,075
  • Median home price: $339,900
  • Median household income: $69,688
  • Walk score: 57/100

Yes, it’s named after that chocolate bar. Hershey is often referred to as one of the sweetest places on earth because, to this day, Hershey’s still calls the city home. This not only means a variety of job opportunities working with chocolate but plenty to lure in tourists. The city also boasts Hersheypark, which has rides and a zoo, Hersey Gardens and Hersheypark Stadium.

Although the city grew up around a single company, today, it contains all the attractive elements of a smaller town one could want. Step away from the more touristy areas to find scenic hiking trails, museums, restaurants and shops.

Lancaster, PA

Lancaster, PA

  • Population: 58,039
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,269
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,453
  • Median home price: $225,625
  • Median household income: $45,514
  • Walk score: 56/100

Situated alongside Amish Country, Lancaster is home to the Pennsylvania Dutch. While you can tour Amish attractions and even immerse yourself into the lifestyle for a special experience, locals have plenty of other activities to occupy their time.

As one of the best places to live near Philadelphia, the downtown area is full of shops, theaters, restaurants and art galleries. Underground caverns provide a little adventure for those seeking something different. You can also take a ride on the country’s oldest operating railroad or see a different side of the city’s history with a ghost tour.

Perkasie, PA

Perkasie, PA

  • Population: 9,120
  • 1-BR median rent: $995
  • 2-BR median rent: $995
  • Median home price: $425,000
  • Median household income: $77,420
  • Walk score: 38/100

Another commuter town, Perkasie is one of the best places to live in Pennsylvania because it’s a great small town that’s only about an hour away from downtown Philadelphia. Once known for its factory that made baseballs for the major leagues, Perkasie today has managed to grow while holding onto its rural appeal.

A fantastic park system and revitalized downtown area provide the perfect combination of hometown activities for residents. There’s no shortage of restaurants, shops, music venues and more.

Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, PA

  • Population: 1,603,797
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,872
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,102
  • Median home price: $260,000
  • Median household income: $45,927
  • Walk score: 84/100

The most populated and well-known city in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia definitely has one of the rooms where it happened. Not only is it the original home of the Liberty Bell but it also housed our Founding Fathers as they signed the Declaration of Independence into being.

Popular in its own right, Philadelphia offers additional appeal for its proximity to New York City. Hop a train into the city for work or a weekend of fun. You can also stay close to home and snack on an authentic Philly cheesesteak as you enjoy the art and history of downtown. There’s no shortage of 300-year-old buildings, cultural attractions, quaint parks, bars, restaurants and shops.

Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, PA

  • Population: 302,971
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,435
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,890
  • Median home price: $217,000
  • Median household income: $48,711
  • Walk score: 69/100

Bookending the state, Pittsburgh is the most populated city on the opposite end from Philly. Known as the City of Bridges, Pittsburgh has long shared a connection with steel, however, the industry is only part of what makes this area so special. As a highly walkable city, you can easily explore on foot but wear comfortable shoes. With over 712 sets of city-maintained steps, you’re going to get a great workout.

If walking isn’t your thing, don’t worry, Pittsburgh has you covered. For sports fans, this affordable town is home to professional baseball, football and hockey teams. For those looking toward higher education, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University are the notable tip of Pittsburgh’s collegiate iceberg.

Reading, PA

Reading, PA

  • Population: 95,112
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,475
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,540
  • Median home price: $160,000
  • Median household income: $32,176
  • Walk score: 69/100

Named after the Reading Railroad, which all you Monopoly players should know well, the town of Reading sits in the southeastern part of the state. Today, it’s uniquely known for the variety of pretzel companies that call the area home. Reading is also a combination of culture and history. It’s easy to divide your day between looking at an Egyptian mummy in the Reading Public Museum and hiking through the Nolde Forest. You can also check out Daniel Boone’s birthplace for some real American history.

With plenty of affordable, suburban housing, residents get drawn into Reading for the charms of the city itself, as well as its proximity to Philadelphia. These two cities on the list of best places to live in Pennsylvania are only about 60 miles apart.

Scranton, PA

Scranton, PA

  • Population: 76,328
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,184
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,095
  • Median home price: $149,000
  • Median household income: $40,608
  • Walk score: 58/100

Laid out more like a traditional small town, Scranton has tight-knit neighborhoods clustered around a thriving downtown. You’ll find trendy restaurants, boutiques and art galleries nestled among the historic Lackawanna County Courthouse building.

Taking into account its high population of young professionals and families, Scranton caters to its residents with plenty of special activities, including cultural festivals and monthly art walks. Scranton also pays homage to its nickname, the Electric City, with The Electric City Trolley Station and Museum. The first streetcars, successfully powered by electricity, ran here in the 1880s.

Willow Grove, PA

Willow Grove, PA

Source: ApartmentGuide.com/Willow Pointe
  • Population: 13,730
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,907
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,230
  • Median home price: $300,000
  • Median household income: $79,162
  • Walk score: 57/100

A small town with big fun, Willow Grove offers residents a quiet, laidback community that doesn’t lack the amenities you’d want close by. There are plenty of shopping and dining options that you’d expect to find in bigger cities.

As a Philadelphia suburb, Willow Grove has the nearby city going for it as far as activity goes, but it’s not without its own set of museums and historic sites to occupy residents. Visit the 42-acre grounds and home at Graeme Park or check out the indoor playground at Urban Air Adventure Park for something really different.

Find an apartment for rent in Pennsylvania

The best places to live in Pennsylvania spread to all four corners of the state. Each city has its own charm, beauty and history to explore, not to mention job opportunities and affordable housing.

Once you decide what area is right for you, begin the hunt. Look for apartments for rent in Pennsylvania to see all your options. Then, start narrowing things down by location, amenities and more. You’ll find the perfect place to call home in no time.

The rent information included in this summary is based on a median calculation of multifamily rental property inventory on Apartment Guide and Rent.com as of December 2021.
Median home prices are from Redfin as of December 2021.
Population and median household income are from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The information in this article is for illustrative purposes only. This data herein does not constitute a pricing guarantee or financial advice related to the rental market.

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Understanding Economic Indicators

An economic indicator is a statistic or piece of data that offers insight into an economy. Analysts use economic indicators to gauge where an economic system is in the present moment, and where it might head next.

Governments use economic indicators as guideposts when assessing monetary or fiscal policies, and corporations use them to make business decisions. Individual investors can also look to these indicators as they shape their portfolios.

There are different types of economic indicators and understanding how they work can make it easier to interpret them.

What Is an Economic Indicator?

An economic indicator is typically a macroeconomic data point, statistic, or metric used to analyze the health of an individual economy or the global economy at large. Government agencies, universities, and independent organizations can collect and organize economic indicator data. In the United States, the Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are some of the entities that aggregate economic indicator data.

Some of the most recognizable economic indicators examples include:

•   Gross domestic product (GDP)

•   Personal income and real earnings

•   International trade in goods and services

•   U.S. import and expert prices

•   Consumer prices (as measured by the Consumer Price Index or CPI)

•   New residential home sales

•   New home construction

•   Rental vacancy rates

•   Home ownership rates

•   Business inventories

•   Unemployment rates

•   Consumer confidence

Private organizations also regularly collect and share economic data investors and economists may use as indicators. Examples of these indicators include the Fear and Greed Index, existing home sales, and the index of leading economic indicators.

Together, these indicators can provide a comprehensive picture of the state of the economy and shine light on potential opportunities for investors.

How Economic Indicators Work

Economic indicators work by measuring a specific component of the economy over a set time period. An indicator may tell you what patterns are emerging in the economy — or confirm the presence of patterns already believed to be established. In that sense, these indicators can serve as a thermometer of sorts for gauging the temperature of the economic environment or where an economy is in a given economic cycle.

Economic indicators can not predict future economic or market movements with 100% accuracy. But they can be useful when attempting to identify signals about which way the economy (and the markets) might head next.

For example, an investor may study an economic indicator like consumer prices when gauging whether inflation is increasing or decreasing. If the signs point to a steady rise in prices, the investor might then adjust their portfolio to account for higher inflation. As prices rise, purchasing power declines but investors who are conscious of this economic indicator could take action to minimize negative side effects.

Recommended: How to Invest and Profit During Inflation

Types of Economic Indicators

Economic indicators are not all alike in terms of what they measure and how they do it. Different types of economic indicators can provide valuable information about the state of an economy. Broadly speaking, they can be grouped into one of three categories: Leading, lagging, or coincident.

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators are the closest thing you might get to a crystal ball when studying the markets. These indicators pinpoint changes in economic factors that may precede specific trends.

Examples of leading indicators include:

•   Consumer confidence and sentiment

•   Jobless claims

•   Movements in the yield curve

•   Stock market volatility

A leading indicator doesn’t guarantee that a particular trend will take shape, but it does suggest that conditions are ripe for it to do so.

Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators are the opposite of leading indicators. These economic indicators are backward-looking and highlight economic movements after the fact.

Examples of lagging indicators include:

•   Gross national product (GNP)

•   Unemployment rates

•   Consumer prices

•   Corporate profits

Analysts look at lagging indicators to determine whether an economic pattern has been established, though not whether that pattern is likely to continue.

Coincident Indicators

Coincident indicators measure economic activity for a particular area or region. Examples of coincident indicators include:

•   Retail sales

•   Employment rates

•   Real earnings

•   Gross domestic product

These indicators reflect economic changes at the same time that they occur. So they can be useful for studying real-time trends or patterns.

Popular Economic Indicators

There are numerous economic indicators the economists, analysts, institutional and retail investors use to better understand the market and the direction in which the economy may move. The Census Bureau, for example, aggregates data for more than a dozen indicators. But investors tend to study some indicators more closely than others. Here are some of the most popular economic indicators and what they can tell you as an investor.

Gross Domestic Product

Gross domestic product represents the inflation-adjusted value of goods and services produced in the United States. This economic indicator offers a comprehensive view of the country’s economic activity and output. Specifically, gross domestic product can tell you:

•   How fast an economy is growing

•   Which industries are growing (or declining)

•   How the economic activity of individual states compares

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates GDP for the country, individual states and for U.S. territories. The government uses GDP numbers to establish spending and tax policy, as well as monetary policy, at the federal levels. States also use gross domestic product numbers in financial decision-making.

Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index or CPI measures the change in price of goods and services consumed by urban households. The types of goods and services the CPI tracks include:

•   Food and beverages

•   Housing

•   Apparel

•   Transportation

•   Medical care

•   Recreation

•   Education

•   Communications

CPI data comes from 75 urban areas throughout the country and approximately 23,000 retailers and service providers. This economic indicator is the most widely used tool for measuring inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the consumer price index, it’s a way to measure a government’s effectiveness in managing economic policy.

Producer Price Index

The Producer Price Index or PPI measures the average change over time in the selling prices received by domestic producers of goods and services. In simpler terms, this metric measures wholesale prices for the sectors of the economy that produce goods, including:

•   Mining

•   Manufacturing

•   Agriculture

•   Fishing

•   Forestry

•   Construction

•   Natural gas and electricity

The Producer Price Index can help analysts estimate inflation, as higher prices will show up on the wholesale level first before they get passed on to consumers at the retail level.

Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate is an economic indicator that tells you the number of people currently unemployed and looking for work. The BLS provides monthly updates on the unemployment rate and nonfarm payroll jobs. Together, the unemployment rate and the number of jobs added or lost each month can indicate the state of the economy.

Higher unemployment, for example, generally means that the economy isn’t creating enough jobs to meet the demand by job seekers. When the number of nonfarm payroll jobs added for the month exceeds expectations, on the other hand, that can send a positive signal that the economy is growing.

Consumer Confidence

The Consumer Confidence Index can provide insight into future economic developments, based on how households are spending and saving money today. This indicator measures how households perceive the economy as a whole and how they view their own personal financial situations, based on the answers they provide to specific questions.

When the indicator is above 100, this suggests consumers have a confident economic outlook, which may make them more inclined to spend and less inclined to save. When the indicator is below 100, the mood is more pessimistic and consumers may begin to curb spending in favor of saving.

The Consumer Confidence Index is separate from the Consumer Sentiment Index, which is also used to gauge how Americans feel about the economy. This index also uses a survey format and can tell you how optimistic or pessimistic households are and what they perceive to be the biggest economic challenges at the moment.

Retail Sales

Retail sales are one of the most popular economic indicators for judging consumer activity. This indicator measures retail trade from month to month. When retail sales are higher, consumers are spending more money. If more spending improves company profits, that could translate to greater investor confidence in those companies, which may drive higher stock prices.

On the other hand, when retail sales lag behind expectations the opposite can happen. When a holiday shopping season proves underwhelming, for example, that can shrink company profits and potentially cause stock prices to drop.

Housing Starts

Census Bureau compiles data on housing starts. This economic indicator can tell you at a glance how many new home construction projects in a given month. This data is collected for single-family homes and multi-family units.

Housing starts can be useful as an economic indicator because they give you a sense of whether the economy is growing or shrinking. In an economic boom, it’s not uncommon to see high figures for new construction. If the boom goes bust, however, new home start activity may dry up.

It’s important to remember that housing starts strongly correlate to mortgage interest rates. If mortgage rates rise in reaction to a change in monetary policy, housing starts may falter, which makes this economic indicator more volatile than others.

Interest Rates

Federal interest rates are an important economic indicator because of the way they’re used to shape monetary policy. The Federal Reserve makes adjustments to the federal funds rate — which is the rate at which commercial banks borrow from one another overnight–based on what’s happening with the economy overall. These adjustments then trickle down to the interest rates banks charge for loans or pay to savers.

For example, when inflation is rising or the economy is growing too quickly, the Fed may choose to raise interest rates. This can have a cooling effect, since borrowing automatically becomes more expensive. Savers can benefit, however, from earning higher rates on deposits.

On the other hand, the Fed may lower rates when the economy is sluggish to encourage borrowing and spending. Low rates make loans less expensive, potentially encouraging consumers to borrow for big-ticket items like homes, vehicles, or home improvements. Consumer spending and borrowing can help to stimulate the economy.

Stock Market

The stock market and the economy are not the same. But some analysts view stock price and trading volume as a leading indicator of economic activity. For example, investors look forward to earnings reports as an indicator of a company’s financial strength and health. They use this information about both individual companies and the markets as a whole to make strategic investment decisions.

If a single company’s earnings report is above or below expectations, that alone doesn’t necessarily suggest where the economy might be headed. But if numerous companies produce earnings reports that are similar, in terms of meeting or beating expectations, that could indicate an economic trend.

If multiple companies come in below earnings expectations, for example, that could hint at not only lower market returns but also a coming recession. On the other hand, if the majority of companies are beating earnings expectations by a mile, that could signal a thriving economy.

The Takeaway

Economic indicators can provide a significant amount of insight into the economy and the trends that shape the markets. Having a basic understanding of the different types of economic indicators could give you an edge if you’re better able to anticipate market movements when you start investing.

You can use these indicators to help shape your investing strategy. One way to get started building a portfolio is by opening an online brokerage account on the SoFi Invest trading platform, which you can use to trade stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), cryptocurrency and even IPOs.

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